Help Wanted: Broadcasting in the Public Interest
In the United States, almost all broadcasting is supported by advertisers whose clients are the shareholders and owners of the media companies. The viewing public that utilizes media for information and entertainment is brought to these companies and their advertising sponsors through programs. We don’t show up for the ads. We suffer through the ads to get to the programs we love.
Despite the sluggish economy, global advertising, and consequently, privatized media, continue to grow. In 2012 alone, North American advertising is projected to total $171 billion. Ad spending in 2012 on Mother Earth is projected to be $489 billion, which makes North America, where the U.S. is the principal sovereign, responsible for nearly one-third of all the world’s ad costs.
The UK-based ZenithOptimedia predicts this trend in ad growth:
Between 2011 and 2014 we predict 60% of all the world’s growth in ad expenditure will come from developing markets (which we define here as everywhere outside North America, Western Europe and Japan). 50% will come from just ten developing markets. The four BRIC markets alone (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are forecast to account for 35% of global growth. Beyond the BRICs, there are six fast-growing markets we forecast to add between US$1 billion and US$4 billion each to the global ad market, and deliver another 15% of global growth: Indonesia, Argentina, South Africa, South Korea, Thailand and Turkey.
The significance of this global trend is that peripheral countries are modeling their media behavior on the North American model. This may explain why the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU) called on its members to support the public interest in digital conversion in radio and television.
In what is being called the Seoul Declaration, the region’s public broadcasters meeting in the Korean capital say the digital switchover frees space on the old analogue radio spectrum which should not just be sold for short term gain – it should be devoted to the public good.
Public broadcasters in the Asia-Pacific region are concerned that social needs will be short shrifted by private sales in the switch from analogue to digital. The digital wave is being led by the global advertising rise in peripheral countries where meeting basic social needs is the greatest.
How do we protect the public good and all that it entails (health, education, environmental safety) in light of a global communications wave dominated by a pro-growth, advertising-centered model? Should advertisers donate at least one percent of their profits to public interest media?